CAIRO – Shaken by the 9/11 attacks and the ensuring hostility against Muslims, the curiosity of many Americans to know more about Islam have led them to embrace the faith.
“It seemed kind of crazy to do,” Johannah Segarich said, the Huffington Post reported on Thursday, August 25.
“I was a middle-aged professional woman, very independent, very contemporary, and here I was turning to this religion, which at that point was so reviled."
Segarich was stunned by news that the 9/11 attacks, which were claimed by Al-Qaeda group, were carried out by some Muslims.
“What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?" Segarich recalled her first reaction to the news.
Seeking answers, the American woman decided to have a deeper look into Islam by studying the Noble Qur’an.
"I came to the realization that I had a decision to make," she recalled.
A few weeks later, the Utah-born music instructor began studying Islam.
In just a few months later, she decided to pronounce the Shahadah (proclamation of faith) and embraced Islam.
Segarich is not alone.
Angela Collins Telles decided to embrace Islam after seeing the anti-Muslim frenzy grew after the 9/11.
"I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn't think of anything further from the truth," she said.
"And I felt a need to stand-up and defend them.”
“But then I realized that I couldn't argue without knowledge."
At this point, Collins Telles began studying Islam to get a better understanding of the faith.
After an in-depth study, she decided to become a Muslim.
“The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe," she said.
Chicagoan Kelly Kaufmann had a similar experience when she had to defend Muslims against accusations of being anti-peace.
"That's when I realized, if I'm taking this personally, I think I must be ready," she said.
Kaufmann decided to study Islam after being criticized by her relatives for volunteering for President Obama's presidential campaign because they believed he is a Muslim.
"Once I realized that's where my beliefs aligned, I had that big uh-oh moment that a lot of people have when they realize, 'Uh-oh, the (religion) I align with is the big fat scary one, as treated by the media, and understood as such by the public," she said.
The anti-Muslim frenzy, however, is still a source of worry for many new American converts.
"I guess it will always be a concern until the rhetoric changes a little bit," said Kaufmann, whose family has been supportive except for an uncle who now forbids his daughter from seeing Kaufmann.
"What are they afraid of, conversion by proximity?"
Trisha Squires, who became a Muslim last month, was also met with some hostile reactions over her conversion.
"The godmother of my children is going to be a Muslim?" she recalled the disappointing reaction of a close friend.
Squires is also worried about the reactions of her friends and her employer over her headscarf.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 Muslims.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
Some new converts, however, are unfazed by any hostility.
“I never cared about being accepted," said Collins Telles, who now lives in Brazil with her husband, who also embraced Islam after meeting her.
"I knew that I had found God, and that's all I ever wanted."
Though the exact numbers of converts are difficult to tally, observers estimate that as many as 20,000 Americans convert to Islam annually.
According to experts, the majority of post-9/11 converts are women.
Hispanics and African-Americans, who were already converting well before 9/11, constitute most of the converts.
Serving converts, many mosques have launched programs to help them with learning the Islamic principles: prayer, basic beliefs, and proper behavior.
Vaqar Sharief, who was tasked to create a program for converts at the Islamic Center of Wilmington, Del., estimates his mosque gets four or five converts every month.
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